Why I Write, A Memoir in Blog Form

This is the beginning of a series about why I write what I write. You could call it a memoir in blog form rather than in a book. One might say it has taken me two weeks to get the nerve to write these words, but in reality it has taken me most of my life—with the help of hours of therapy.

Cormorants at Isla Chimay, Mexico by Karen Lynne Klink

I’m posting this for me and for all those who have been through the same or a similar experience, and I believe there are plenty of you out there. The photos at the top of each post are from my adult adventures. They represent a success story, a survivor’s album, to speak. All the shit I went through as a child was survived by both me and my sister, and my Mom. We got through it. Not without bruises, mind you. Those will remain. Forever. But we have lives with which we are satisfied, even happy. Diann and I are stronger after what we experienced.

Diann paints abstract art, art that expresses emotion. I express myself through writing. 

A few members of my extended family are aware of what I am about to reveal in these posts. Others are not. What I write will be what I recall, my truth, and whatever my sister wishes to add. I will not embellish in any way. 

Much of my childhood I have forgotten. This “forgetfulness” may be subconscious protection, but I don’t know. Diann often recalls instances I do not. Perhaps this is normal.

I don’t believe I ever thanked my ex-husband, with whom I am still friends, for encouraging me to begin therapy. I thank him, now, if he ever reads this. Thank you, Fred, so much. I doubt I would ever have the courage to write this, otherwise.

I am an incest survivor. I, my sister, and my Mom also suffered emotional abuse, until Diann and I escaped the house as adults and Dad died. Mom cried at his funeral and his family thought it was because of his death. She told me it was because of all the wasted years.

I believe and sincerely hope that what was thought of merely as shyness is recognized today by teachers in schools today for what it was when we were in school in the fifties. Afraid of boys and practically unable to socialize among our peers, we were two terrified and abused little girls.

It began when he came home from World War II.

I Did Not Choose She Writes Press

Dickens at my Computer, Photo by Karen Lynne Klink

I recently downloaded a book by Colleen M. Story entitled Writer get Noticed!, which is supposed to help me pursue my own path while developing an author platform. Sounds like a great idea, since I need help with my platform.

My cat, Dickens, is here next to my computer, as usual and willing, but I doubt he knows much about this sort of thing.

The book suggests I keep a journal of each of its steps, answering core questions, which I did:

  1. I truly don’t care about making a lot of money. Thank goodness. Because the chances of that are slim. To me, higher royalties are not that important.
  2. What my novel has to say is important. It is meaningful and fits my vision.

As much as I believe She Writes Press is a good fit for many writers, I don’t believe it is for me. 

They read three hundred pages of my manuscript to invite me to publish with them. I should have known this was enough to recognize talent, but not enough to financially back my novel. This is my impression of the approach of a school who awards a publishing contract upon graduation. The She Writes Press team is excellent and I wish I could afford them, but I cannot.

I want a publisher who believes in my novel, Unspoken, as much as I do, or at least enough to financially support it.

I am grateful to She Writes Press and responders on Critique Circle for what I have learned these past few weeks. I began as such a naive newbie, and I now have direction. I highly recommend She Writes Press for many women writers who can afford to publish with their team. You will get plenty of support on your journey, merely not financial.

Where do I go from here?

I will be writing about my platform and why this novel is important. I hope you will come along for the ride.

Dickens Closing by Karen Lynne Klink

No, Dickens, this is not the end of this story!

Writing and Migraine

Headache by Erika

 

I wasn’t sure if I should be blogging about this, then I decided to go ahead and do it.

I haven’t blogged for ages because I just haven’t found the energy. It’s been hard to find the energy to write my novel or anything else.

Writing was easier years ago when I was on caffeine. Lots of caffeine to keep headaches at bay. Then I had more and more headaches and drank more and more caffeine and took Excedrin, eventually ending in rebound. Had to stop the caffeine altogether. Had to stop all sorts of pain medication because of rebound.

Now I am on the drug topiramate or topamax. It sort of works, the only thing that sort of works. Except for what it does to my memory and what is called “foggy brain syndrome.” Imagine trying to write with that problem.

There are more of us out there than ever—what are now called “migraineurs.” We even have our own site, Migraine.com, where we can commiserate with one another and learn about the latest advances in headache medicine. Some of you who are reading this may be one of us.

I will keep writing. I get depressed if I don’t. It just takes three times longer to get a chapter written than it used to: “I know that word, what is it? Why can’t I recall the name of that place? Describing such a scene used to come to me so easily.”

Blogging? Yeah, I ought to be blogging at least once a week. Ha.

See you, well, whenever.

 

No Drunkards Allowed – Research for Novel, Unspoken

 

Austin Colony Map

Austin Colony Map

 

Who were these original settlers of Austin’s Colony? When I visited Washington County a couple years ago, a found a book titled Austin’s Old Three Hundred that listed short biographies of most of these families. Here are a number of anecdotes from the book.

“To become a member of Austin’s original colony, someone had to swear to the settler’s good character. Austin’s rules of the colony provided that ‘no frontiersman who has no other occupation than that of hunter will be received—no drunkard, no gambler, no profane swearer, no idler.'”

Some arrived flush, others did not:

“In Texas in 1823 dress material or any kind of cloth sold for seven to ten dollars a yard, a cake of soap was a dollar and a quarter, buttons were a dollar a dozen, men’s socks were a dollar and a quarter a pair, and silk handkerchiefs were two dollars each.  Few Texians could afford these things.”

“In his twentieth year, Jesse [Burnam} wrote, I married an orphan girl, named Temperance Baker, I made rails for a jack-leg blacksmith and had him make me three knives and three forks and I put handles on them. My wife sold the stockings she was married in made by her own hands, for a set of plates. I traded a small piece of land and then we were ready for housekeeping. We used gourds for cups.”

“[Col. Jared Ellison} Groce set out for Texas in the fall of 1821 with a hundred slaves as well as cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, and a caravan of fifty wagons. He was granted ten leagues of land by the Mexican government in 1824 ‘on account of the property ha has brought with him.’ . . . The first cotton in Texas was raised there and the first bale ginned in 1826. … Grace was the wealthiest of the Old Three Hundred and lived in a splendid home. In 1827 his daughter Sarah Ann graduated from a finishing school in New York. Servants bemoaned the fact the china was cracked and broken from the trip to Texas. A houseguest, Mr. White, who was a silversmith provided a solution. Mr. Groce had a large collection of Mexican silver dollars, which Mr. White converted to bowls, cups, and plates.” When Sarah married, the remaining silver dollars were converted to knives, forks and spoons by a New York silversmith.

Settler's Cabin, Washington County

Settler’s Cabin, Washington County

There were dangers, even before the War with Mexico, known in Texas as the War for Independence:

“The Dyers settled on Irons Creek, near San Felipe. After they had a frightening encounter with Indians, the Dyers moved to present Ford Bend County. Dyer became manager of the Stafford Plantation in 1833.

“In the winter of 1826-27, when Elisha Flowers, his three-year-old son Romulus and neighbor Charles Cavanah went hunting together, Karankawa Indians massacred their families. . . . Polly Flowers, her infant daughter, and Cavanah’s wife and daughter were killed in the last recorded Indian raid in Matagorda County.

The Hollands were originally from Canada, came to Texas from Ohio and settled atop a hill overlookinig Ten Mile Creek in Washington County. “Francis served in the First Company militia, later was elected comisario on December 13, 1830, then a delegate from present Washington County to the Convention of 1833 at San Felipe. The cholera epidemic . . . took the life of Francis and Margaret Holland. Their son William, a lifelong invalid, died shortly after them.” Another son, Frank Holland was killed by Indians.

“Mary Crownover Rabb write that when she was in her first house in Texas, Andrew Rabb made a spinning wheel for her. She was very pleased and got to work making clothes for her family. She would pick cotton with her fingers and spin ‘600 thread around the reel every day,’ When she was lonely and frightened, ‘I kept my new spinning wheel whisling [sic] all day and a good part of the night for while the wheel was rowering [sic] it would keep me from hearing the Indians walking around hunting mischieaf [sic].'”

Through Austin, the Mexican government invited these colonists in hopes of settling this new territory but, as we now know, relations became more and more strained.  By 1835 the situation had reached the breaking point.

Surprise . . . Research!

Washington County barns and wildflowers

Washington County barns and wildflowers

When I started research for my novel, Here We Stand, four years ago, I never imagined where it would lead me or how much I would learn.  Or how much fun delving into the past would be.

The beginning of the story takes place in 1854, in Washington County, East Texas, along the Brazos River. If you are like me, having never been to Texas at the time, I pictured Texas from the movies I had seen and books I had read which generally take place in West Texas. You know, those dry, cactus-clad expanses where Comanches roam and banditos come riding down upon you out of the dust. Oh, and the longhorns.

Longhorns do exist in East Texas, but so do wildflower and oak-covered hills, meandering streams and hundreds of songbirds.  In fact, East Texas is more like its neighbor, Louisiana, than West Texas, which I discovered when I spent a couple weeks near Brenham and Washington-on-the-Brazos two springs ago.  May is the best time because the bluebonnets and other wildflowers are blooming everywhere: in the fields, along the highways and side roads, wherever the sun kisses the ground.  Often the blue is mixed with yellow or white daisies or red paintbrush.

Washington County pond  and bluebonnets near Brenham

Washington County pond and bluebonnets near Brenham

What those original settlers must have imagined when they first saw this land!  Stephen F. Austin had to do a good bit of wrangling with Mexican Commissioner General Juan Antonio Padilla to allow the first colonists.  Texas was still Mexican territory at the time, and any land grants had to come under the 1823 Imperial Colonization Law of Mexico.

The Law stated that each colonist could receive 177 acres for farmers and 4,428 acres for stock raisers, or both for those who professed to do both stock raising and farming. The land must be cultivated within two years from date of title or be forfeited. There were disputes, of course, over the most fertile land and over Austin’s collection of fees for surveying and obtaining titles. Yet this was the first organized colony of immigrants who were allowed to govern themselves under regulations set down by Austin, who also oversaw the quality of settlers and served as intermediary with Mexican authorities.

Most of the settlers were from Louisiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. Many of them were younger sons of plantation owners who did not inherit. They sought the free land and a new economic beginning. The land was fertile, but keeping it, making something of it, was not easy. A number of colonists forfeited their titles for noncompliance. Others fought through the hard years and the war with Mexico. But that is another story.

 

Push

Push, courtesy of Michael at Flicker, Creative Commons

Push, courtesy of Michael at Flicker, Creative Commons

It’s hard some days, isn’t it? To make yourself do what you don’t feel like doing. You know you must, you should, deep down you really want to, but the push isn’t there. Maybe you haven’t had your caffeine yet, or the brew isn’t doing the job.

Writing is like that some days, even writing this post. I don’t have the benefit of caffeine, ever, and I am basically a Type B person, a dreamer more than a doer. But to make those dreams happen, I got to push. We all have to push sometimes, to get what we want.

There is always something in the way.

The cat puked on the carpet, usually-sweet little Tommy dumped his Cream of Wheat all over the kitchen floor and your car battery went dead. Nevertheless, that presentation you haven’t prepared yet is due at 2:00 p.m.

Sound like one of those silly movies? They make those movies because nearly everyone can identify with them.

You don’t have to be perfect, either. Who told you you did? Your mom? Your pop? Yourself? Do you even know a perfect person? A perfect mom? A perfect dad? Do you like them?

Life is constant challenges, ups and downs. As Kristen Lamb says, “This is life. Focus on your love and passion, but also be fearless with yourself. We all procrastinate, make excuses, hide, or deflect. We are human. A pro takes problems seriously, the amateur takes them personally.

Check out Kristen Lamb’s blog. She focuses on writers, but what she has to say applies to everyone, and she says it much better than I do.

 

 

A Loss for Words?

 

Photo by Alie Krohn, Photostream Creative Commons

Photo by Alie Krohn, Photostream Creative Commons

“What the hell kind of people read books about words?”

I love this. I took it from a interview with one of my favorite people who is also an author and a word wizard, Arthur Plotnik. I don’t know of anyone who makes reading about words, or how to “write words better” so much fun.

I don’t know what I would do without his book, Spunk & Bite. Mine looks a bit like a squished porcupine with all the tabs I have added for quick access to all the info.

Take a look at the interview on The Grammarist, if you’ve a mind, and you will not only learn something, but I bet you will smile doing it: http://grammarist.com/nofront/interview-with-arthur-plotnik/

 

Two Cats Too Many?

Blue and Riley

Blue and Riley

Busy, busy, busy. And I thought retiring was supposed to leave me more time for doing what I enjoy. It does, but I enjoy so much! Do you have so many things you like to do, but can’t find the time to do them all?

I love writing, and writing one novel in particular, is my main project. Then there’s all I have learned about social media recently at the Tucson Festival of Books. I’m sure you know how it is. You learn something new, get all excited, and have to jump right in there and try it all. In this case, it makes sense for me to sit down and set my goals and write my biographies and sign up on social media sites and learn Hootsuite and redo my blog and, and, and . . . .

And last night I was blasted out of a sound sleep by the screeching of our three cats fighting. Yeah, three of them. I never thought we’d have three but, Dickens, my main man, struck out for parts unknown last summer and, when he didn’t come home for food for four days, we were sure he was gone forever. There’s raptors, coyotes and bears around here, and we try to keep the guy in at night, but he had his own idea about that.

So we went right to the shelter and brought back Riley and Blue, two all black males who got along great. Naturally, a week later Dickens showed up at the patio door, all filthy and skinny and howling to come in.

We tried everything to get them friendly, or at least to put up with each other. I bought a book on accommodating cats and followed all the rules and spent a fortune on cat toys. We kept them separated and tried special introductions with playtime and treats. Nothing doing. The two boys stay in the bedroom downstairs and Dickens stays upstairs, usually. But Blue absolutely, positively has to sneak upstairs on Dickens at every opportunity. Anyone who has cats knows how good they are at disappearing and appearing when you are least aware.

What, or what, are we going to do?

SOMEONE HAS

 

IMG_2894Ever wish someone would surf through all those writing, publishing and marketing blogs, pick out the best and most informative ones and drop them in your email?

Someone has.

His name is Gene Lempp, and once a week he compiles a list of all the best and lists them on his blog at http://genelempp.wordpress.com/

He even categorizes and writes a short synopses of each so you can choose which ones you want to read.

Gene is another special example of how writers go out of their way to help one another. Is there any other “business” like this?

Thank you, Gene!

Face Your Fears

JUMP IN!

JUMP IN!

I haven’t mentioned how much writing can sometimes be a struggle. I’ve been in the midst of the struggle fog for months now, and I could give lots of reasons why: no secluded place to write, constantly moving, family upheavals. I used to write every day and wonder why people had so much trouble doing the same.

Nothing I write is good enough.

I have always faced anything I was afraid of: backpacking alone, traveling to Central America on my own, leaping that chasm, climbing that steep cliff.

What if I publish something and no one likes it? What if I look a fool?

Time to quit dabbling a toe in the cold water and jump in with both feet. Karen Lamb’s post this morning gave me an added boost. Thank you, Karen!